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Fly strike is a very serious condition caused by Green Bottle flies (Lucilia sericata).

The flies need a host on which to lay eggs and are particularly attracted to the moisture, smell and warmth found around the back end of a rabbit. This is enhanced when they are soiled with faeces and urine. An individual fly can lay up to 200 eggs at once.

The maggots can emerge from the eggs within hours and start to feed on the superficial debris on the skin. Once this is exhausted they eat and burrow into the moist skin. This is a particularly painful condition and toxins produced in the process can quickly send the rabbit into toxic shock, which can quickly become fatal.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is fly strike seen?

Fly strike is seen at any time when the flies are active, but particularly between April and October when the weather is warm.

Fly strike can be seen in both indoor and outdoor rabbits, although the risk is greater in outdoor housed rabbits.

What are the symptoms of fly strike?

A thorough inspection (recommended at least once daily) of the skin will show small white eggs or maggots on the hair and skin, particularly around the anus, genitals and moist skin around the back end. As the maggots attack, the skin becomes red, ulcerated and sore.

How is fly strike treated?

Fly strike can progress quickly and is an emergency situation that requires veterinary attention.

If caught very early, the eggs can be removed from the skin by brushing. If they have hatched then the maggots are removed individually. Depending on the severity of the condition, particularly if involving large areas of skin or muscle exposure or if the rabbit is in shock then intravenous fluids, pain relief and antibiotics are indicated.

Unfortunately in many cases the progression is so rapid that euthanasia is needed to be considered to prevent suffering.

How can fly strike be prevented?

Monitoring is incredibly important for every rabbit. At Maven Vets we recommend checking your pet at least once daily to make sure they are clean, dry and free from infestation. Removing all traces of faeces and keeping your bunny dry is also crucial to help prevent the disease.

Rabbits are usually very clean animals and will groom themselves. This process can be hindered if the rabbit is overweight, as they cannot easily reach their bottom to clean themselves. It is important to keep your rabbit in good body condition and not allow them to become overweight. For information on this, please see the rabbit nutrition advice on our website.

Animals with arthritis also find it harder to turn around to groom themselves and this can be a problem in our older rabbit companions.  Regular health checks are essential throughout their lives to make sure that they do not suffer from these debilitating conditions.

A rabbit will find it harder to clean themselves if they have diarrhoea or are incontinent. Loose faeces can be an indication of an inappropriate diet, dental disease or many other gastrointestinal conditions. Diarrhoea can become very serious very quickly and if you see this in your pet then we would recommend a check up with us to help determine the cause.

Rear Guard is a spot on preventative medication that can be applied to the skin to prevent the larvae from hatching. It can be applied every 8-10 weeks, ideally starting before the fly season. This can be very useful for prevention and post-treatment of fly strike, but is not a substitute for urgent care in the acute condition. It is included at a discount on our Maven Health Care Club scheme to help prevent fly strike.

Keeping your rabbit indoors at risk periods during warm weather can be helpful, but the risk of fly strike cannot be fully eliminated even for indoor rabbits.

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